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Harry Press, Stanford alum, former staffer and newspaperman, dies at 93

Press was the managing director of the Professional Journalism Fellowships and the Knight Fellowships Program at Stanford and served as founding editor of the alumni newspaper, The Stanford Observer. He also was an associate editor at the Stanford News Service.

Chuck Painter Harry Press

Harry Press' positive, humorous spirit is evident in this 1969 photo taken at Stanford News & Publications.

Update: A memorial for Harry Press will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, on Sunken Diamond.

Harry Press, a longtime newspaperman, Stanford alum and former Stanford staff member, died Feb. 6 in Palo Alto at 93. Press was the managing director of the university's Professional Journalism Fellowships (PJF) Program and the Knight Fellowships Program and served as founding editor of the alumni newspaper, The Stanford Observer, for its first 20 years. He also was associate editor at the Stanford News Service.

"For many fellows – I was one of them – Harry was the first face of the program, when he traveled around the country to interview PJF candidates," recalled Jim Bettinger, the current director of the Knight Journalism Fellowships Program. "He was indefatigable, and his optimism and joie de vivre were legendary. Nobody who ever met Harry forgot him."

Harry Press' son, Tony, said the last few weeks had been hard on his father and all of the family after the recent death of his daughter Lindi Press.

"One silver lining," Bettinger wrote in a note to Knight Fellows on Wednesday evening, "was that Harry was able to see many out-of-town relatives who came to Palo Alto for Lindi Press' memorial service at Stanford on Feb. 2."

Tony Press told Dawn Garcia, managing director of the Knight Fellowships Program, that he was with his father on the day before he died, and he was "funny and positive, but super tired. It was just time."

That positive, humorous spirit came through in an obituary Harry Press wrote about himself and gave to the News Service in 2010.

"I'm not about to fade away. Just planning ahead," he wrote in a cover note. "All this is worth maybe a graph in Stanford Report. But being nearly 91, I thought I'd send this to you so it could be in the proper place. I'm really aiming for 99 or 100."

Press was born in Santa Monica, Calif., where his deep interest in newspapers started in the seventh grade. He wrote a one-page newspaper, and his mother typed it with carbon paper. He also worked on the Santa Monica High School paper. As an undergraduate at Stanford, he worked on the Stanford Daily all four years, serving as managing editor his senior year. He played clarinet and was manager of the Stanford Band.

After graduating from Stanford in 1939, Press worked on the Anaheim Bulletin, Palo Alto Times, San Francisco News, where he was city editor, and San Francisco News–Call Bulletin.

"Although he described himself as 'a hack rewriteman,' in 1956 he was honored with a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard,'" Press wrote in his advance obit.

In 1966, Press returned to Stanford and became the founding editor of The Stanford Observer for its first 20 years. He was the managing director of the journalism fellowships program from 1967 to 1989 and also worked as associate editor at the Stanford News Service.

In his prewritten obituary he noted: "But in all spare moments, he was a Stanford sports fan, following especially baseball, women's basketball, women's volleyball and football. He went to the College World Series in Omaha with the Stanford baseball team five times. With him constantly was his first wife, Martha, who died in 1999, and his second wife, Mildred Hamilton, whom he married in 2001" and who died in 2010.

In addition to his son, Tony, of Brisbane, Calif., Press is survived by a daughter, Tina Press, of Fayetteville, N.Y., four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service has not been scheduled. However, in his prepared obit, Press announced that it would be held at Stanford's baseball field, the Sunken Diamond.